Dylan Kennett left it late, but the final stage in Queen’s Park finally saw the fast man claim a stage of this year’s Tour of Southland.  It’s been a stellar season for the St George Continental Cycling Team rider, with a great bunch of Kiwi teammates also starring in Southland, and a bright future for New Zealand’s new star of sprinting.

RC:  First of all, it was a week in the making but the stage win at the Tour of Southland is in the bag.  How does it feel, after the season you’ve had, to take a win in front of a home crowd? 

Dylan:  It felt pretty good, we all knew it was there just had to be patient.  After my recent form I’ve had coming off those good results sprinting in China I think everyone expected me to win a stage or two from the bunch sprint. So of course the team plan was to try and keep every flatter stage all together for me to win the stages in sprint finishes. I think it shows how tough the Tour of Southland is as a tour especially with the conditions this year that it never happened, not one single bunch sprint decided the stage winner. 

Dylan Kennett’s focus has been more on the road this year, but he’s not done on the track yet, photo Guy Swarbrick

Every stage one guy stayed away and I had to settle for 4th in stage 1 after taking out the bunch sprint, of course good day for the team with Zeno taking the win and the tour lead, then my St George team mate Morgan Smith held us out on stage 2, this time I won the bunch sprint for 2nd place. Then after two days of helping out my team mates on the big hill days in the cross winds I was licking my lips for surely taking the win into Gore when Piccoli slips off the front on the final climb, as a sprinter you’re torn over wether or not to try go after him or keep your cool and save your legs for the sprint hoping someone else will chase. Well he looked very small in the distance as he disappeared around the final right hand bend I knew again I’d be sprinting for 2nd.

Going into that final day I was getting quite hungry – I got 2nd again this time behind in the TT behind Bondy. My ride looked very impressive in those tough conditions until he had to show off like that haha made us all look silly but the man is all class over that distance and time frame. 

So going into that final stage I knew I had to stop fully focusing on the bunch sprint and focus on race instincts more. So as we headed into Queen’s Park I could sense that everyone was tired and the two big guns Vink and Bond were just keen to hang out together so I thought I’d try force my way across to that front split, Marcus my team mate rode really hard and took me half way then I went across solo and after I got there I called out to Gaze let’s split this group up so we whacked it and forced that final move. 

I felt as though it was a bit of a tactical affair with everyone not working great but doing just enough to stay clear. Then to pull off the win finally was a nice feeling, I think it was a very nice way to say thanks to our amazing Placemakers team sponsors and support crew who treated us like kings all week, and the riders of course for working hard all week. 

Dylan Kennett on his way to victory in stage 4 of the Tour of Taihu Lake, photo Cycling 4U

RC:  As the week moved on and you were getting so close to the win, were the nerves kicking in at all about whether that win would finally come? 

Dylan:  Not really nerves, I don’t get nervous these days, not after years of being in high level track racing with all the highs and lows.  Last time I was really nervous was the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. I was confident that it would come even going into that final stage, it’s the one that suits me the most only 78km. But you never know on the road what could happen, that’s why I went out after it instead of sitting back and waiting. Also the team sponsors and support crew looked super happy so instead of feeling pressure from them the boys and I wanted to please them more, it was a good environment to be in.

RC:  Has this year, with your wins in Southland, Taihu Lake and Tour of Poyang Lake been the beginning of the official transition of Dylan Kennett from track rider to road professional? – 

Dylan:  Not at all, I haven’t thought of giving up the track at all yet.  CyclingNZ have gone from not allowing Piet Bulling and I to join road teams because it will effect our track speed to now saying being a pro on the road is the answer to going so good on the track. I will always have my speed as I am always working on it. This road racing should be making me even stronger for the track in future, NZ has never seen me in peak fitness in my prime so let’s see what 2019 and 2020 has in store. I’m still hunting the track for 2020 Olympics and boy I’m hungry after missing out on the medals in Rio. So why can’t I do both?

RC:  What comes next for you in terms of your development on the road? 

Dylan:  I’ll continue to race for St George next year learning more and enjoying it. They are a group of guys that really want to win, it’s a great environment to be in, they all think like me… in the meetings it’s ‘how can we win’.  I’m loving it there.  I’d like to think that if the good results keep coming that I might start getting looked at by a big team somewhere down the track. I look forward to getting some guidance and training from Hayden Roulston for the road soon too, who knows what he can get out of me it’s a very exciting time coming up.

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